Writing Tip — Writing in Time: County Fair as Writing Inspiration

carnivalw-2456901_1280I love county fairs, so it’s no surprise that I see them as writing inspiration.

Part of that love comes from nostalgia. In the county where I grew up in eastern Ohio, the county fair arrived the week after Labor Day. The fairgrounds were right across from my elementary school, and I always looked forward to the afternoon when we left the classroom and took a walking field trip to the fair. I was also eaten up by envy at the kids from the farms who got out of school to show their animals in 4-H competitions. I competed but in baking and won five blue ribbons.

When I discovered that the county where my husband and I built our home holds its fair in September, it felt just right. And when my kids won their own ribbons at the fair, I had a satisfying feeling of coming full circle.

That feeling could inspire a story of a parent or grandparent passing on a tradition which includes going to the county fair for some reason, not just competition.

Another thing I love about county fairs is how it brings together the land, animals, and people of a community. You don’t get that at a state fair. Too many strangers. But at the county fair, you run into so many friends, neighbors, and acquaintances that it feels like an enormous family reunion. When my family and I visit the fair, we make a point of reading the names fastened to the pens and cages of the 4-H animals, so we can see the animals kids from school and church have entered. It also reminds me that, no matter how sophisticated we become, we still depend on the land to produce crops and sustain animals and on our neighbors who farm and manage it all.

Those themes of community, family reunion, or ties to the land could be explored in a story set at the fair.

A special feature of our fair is the prominence of harness racing. Our fair really has a split personality. The front half, where the barns, rides, and buildings for exhibits are located, is for the local people. The back half has the stadium and barns for the horses that come to race. I can thoroughly enjoy the fair and never venture into the back half, which has a completely different atmosphere. The harness racing is business, as well as the gambling, so I feel no sense of community, but I’m an outsider looking in. I’m sure the members of the harness racing business probably feel differently.

I recently watched the film noir from 1956, The KillingIn this heist movie, a gang of crooks plot to rob a racetrack. One of them shoots a horse in an important race to create chaos while the robbery is executed. I’ve been wondering if I could write a story about a robbery at county fair with harness racing. I don’t know enough about how the betting is done to know if there’s enough cash on hand to make it worthwhile. But it would be interesting to research.

I like to research small, local events like a county fair and see if they have unique or unusual aspects to them, like harness racing. These quirks can ignite all kinds of inspiration and set my story apart from others.

Do you have a particular community celebration where you live? How can it inspire your writing?


Writing Tip — Writing in Time: September as Writing Inspiration

autumn1-1657662_1280As I said last year, fall is my favorite season, and the weather where I live is at its best in September and October with bright sunny days, cool nights, and most of the the most annoying bugs dead.  Here are some events that occur where I live that I can use for September as writing inspiration.

Labor Day: Labor Day always feels like the end of summer rather than the beginning of fall for me. So I would use a Labor Day picnic as a climax where all my plots are resolved, especially for a family drama.

Beginning of the School Year: Regardless of your age, starting school is always dramatic. Many, many stories have been written on the subject, so I will throw out an idea I hope hasn’t been used too often: follow several characters through twenty-four hours, from the time they wake up on the first day of school until they meet again at school on the second day. I think the characters would have to be high school or older to give them independence, and the opportunity for drama, during the twenty-four hours.

County Fair: The county fair is one of my favorite events. In the county where I grew up and the one I’m living in now, both have their fairs in September. I could use the fair as a setting for nostalgia as people take part in activities their grandparents would recognize. It would also be a great setting for a middle grade mystery. Perhaps several 4-H kids who are spending the night at the fair with their animals suspect a crime has been or will be committed. The fair in my home county does big business in harness racing, so I could also use it as a setting for a country noir story where a gang of thieves try to steal the gambling proceeds.

Football Season: A lot stories have been written about the drama associated with football, but as a former band member, I would like to see more stories about the marching band. I observed a lot from my seat in the stand with the band, and a climax to a mystery or thriller at a high school football game would be very exciting. I like the contrast between a large crowd enjoying an ordinary event while a few people take part in something extraordinary that the crowd has no clue is going on.

Fall Equinox: The only one of two days in the year when light and darkness last for equal amounts of time seems like a great setting for speculative fiction. The equinox could signal that special powers wielded by good and evil characters are evenly matched, and these characters battle it out before the growing darkness makes the evil characters too strong.

Are there any special events in September where you live? How would you se September as writing inspiration?

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